A 70-year-old pensioner in Greece was caught stealing food worth approximately 40 euros on Saturday at a Lidl Supermarket franchise (Aldi group) in Athens.

The elderly woman was taken by the police after the supermarket’s security reported the shoplifting incident at the main branch in the suburb of Ilion.

Despite information that other customers, who were present during the woman’s detention by security, offered to pay for the items and reports that the police officers on scene were hesitant to arrest her and also offered to cover the cost, the branch manager at the store insisted that the woman face charges.

The 70-year-old woman experiencing severe financial hardship, testified that she knew her act was wrong, but she was desperate to invite her children over and offer them a decent meal like she used to.

Even though she receives a pension she reportedly covers a mortgage in order to avoid losing her home which was put down as financial security for her children’s’ businesses that were hit hard during the crisis and lockdowns. She is also paying for an expensive medical treatment that is not covered by public healthcare.

Speaking to local TV channel Open, the woman’s neighbours said that “she often goes hungry caring for her two sons, one of them unemployed and one with four children”.

Following the news of her arrest and subsequent lawsuit filed against her, the woman in a state of shock, attempted suicide with pills taken for blood pressure.

Thousands of Greek citizens took to social media offering to cover the cost and provide the woman and her family with extra food.

Despite the public outcry, it took the supermarket giant days to respond with an official statement, following the loss of thousands who followed the company online and a boycott using the hashtag #cancellidl. The supermarket chain also suffered an attack by vandals.

Due to an intervention by the Development Ministry on Thursday, the lawsuit against the elderly woman has now been withdrawn.

“The recent incident that occurred in our Ilion branch deeply saddens us,” Lidl Supermarkets said in a statement.

“The branch manager is instructed to pursue all necessary steps when dealing with criminal activity, as are all our branch managers,… the company’s management is aware of the incident and will ensure that it ends here. The company will be in touch with the customer in question to ensure that the incident comes to a close”.

The company also stressed that it stands on the side of the vulnerable and those in need.

While many came to the woman’s support, several commentators condemned the act saying that “theft is theft” regardless of someone’s predicament.

Among those supporting that “the woman should have stuck to what she could afford or ask for help rather than steal higher quality food” Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis, said.

“I don’t want to blame the company, they followed the relevant law and procedures,” he told Newsbreak.gr. “The officials acted exactly as required by the law. Obviously, every case is not the same, but an employee or a store may not have the authority make such a distinction (whom to punish, whom to pardon…),” Georgiadis stressed.

“We all understand the humanitarian side of this issue. We would not want any of us to be in the position of this woman. In this sense, we understood that this is a special case, that we must show our humanity, to put it very simply: Someone has committed a theft, according to the law, it automatically starts proceedings.”

Clarifying the process he said that “the only thing that can be done is that when the trial takes place, the company can say… ‘I do not want to prosecute the accused’. This is impossible to do at the stage we are at today, from a legal point of view. This is done during the trial.”

“I understand that the company has stated that it does not want the prosecution to continue. However, the woman will be taken to court, as by law, this is the procedure. I know that Citizen Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos also intervened, so perhaps everything will end up on the part of the police,” said Mr. Georgiadis.